Boris Johnson is today being warned by motor industry bosses that the sector is unlikely to be ready for the fast-tracked transition to electric vehicles from 2030.
Following the Prime Minister’s decision last month to accelerate the ban on sale of new petrol and diesel cars by a decade, the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) says there simply won’t be enough trained mechanics available to work on a growing volume of electric vehicles on our roads.
In an open letter penned on Monday, Professor Jim Saker and Steve Nash – respective president and ceo of the IMI – said that just one in twenty technicians working in garages and dealerships are certified to safely maintain and service battery-powered cars.
Not enough mechanics to fix EVs: The Institute of the Motor Industry has warned that just 1 in 20 car technicians in the UK are qualified to work on electric vehicles – and at the current rate of training, there won’t be enough to cope with a surge in demand for battery cars from 2030
The letter says that one of the biggest challenges of the accelerated ban on new petrol and diesel cars is the shortened time frame for the sector to ‘develop the workforce to service and repair a nation of electric vehicles’.
In order to work on any car that has an electric battery – fully electric, hybrid or plug-in hybrid – requires a completely different set of skills to those needed to work on a petrol or diesel vehicle.
Without the essential training and qualification to operate on cars of this type, it proposes a ‘very real prospect of serious injury or death,’ say the IMI bosses.
The open letter adds: ‘Yes, we have Electricity at Work regulations, but right now only five per cent of the technicians working in garages and dealerships are appropriately qualified to work on these vehicles.
‘This is the real context to the government’s Green Plan.
‘Unless we start to discuss these issues, that plan will be compromised and – much more important – the UK won’t meet its net zero targets and we’ll imperil our next generation’s future.’
Without the essential qualification to operate on battery electric or hybrid cars, it poses a ‘very real prospect of serious injury or death’ to untrained technicians, the IMI said
The open letter is the latest fly in the ointment for Mr Johnson’s ambitious plans for a Green Industrial Revolution.
Last week, he was warned that almost half of all cars on UK roads must be electric within a decade if the country is to meet its ambitious climate change targets.
The Climate Change Committee said that to meet a target of cutting emissions by 68 per cent from 1990 levels by then, 46 per cent of the UK ‘car fleet’ must already have electric motors.
Committee chairman Lord Deben said it would be ’eminently achievable’ if effective policies were introduced across the economy without delay, which in turn would bring significant benefits for the UK’s economic recovery.
The warning came as Government auditors warned that ministers have no idea how much it will cost the economy to meet Britain’s overall goal of becoming ‘net zero’ by 2050.
The IMI’s latest comments will now only add fuel to the opinion of EV doubters who believe a 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel cars is too soon.
There are currently between 13,000 and 20,000 UK mechanics who are certified to work on around 380,000 plug-in cars and vans on the road. With demand for these vehicles at record levels, there are concerns that the after-sales sector won’t be able to keep up
The motor body said it has been inspired to see how quickly automotive manufacturers are adapting their ranges to transition to more hybrid and all-electric vehicles – and that consumers are already responding with demand for electrified cars at an all-time high.
However, it warned that anyone who wants to make a ‘green choice’ for their next car, whether it’s full EV or hybrid, needs to know that they can access technicians able to work safely on these vehicles.
And the sector bosses claim the problem is already unfolding in the UK.
‘Right now, the chances of finding qualified technicians are reducing,’ the letter explains.
‘Today five per cent of the UK automotive workforce – between 13,000 and 20,000 technicians – are working on around 380,000 plug-in cars and vans.
‘Ramp-up the numbers based on the government’s Green Plan and the capacity is simply not there to support the transition the government wants.’
The IMI adds that the Covid-19 pandemic has only intensified the problem by disrupting any training plans that would have helped the after-sales sector better prepare to work on an increasing market share of electric cars.
The IMI’s open letter to raise concerns for a lack of qualified mechanics to work on EVs
It says around 6,500 certificates for working on electric vehicles were issued in 2019.
If that rate had continued, the minimum required qualified technicians would potentially have been reached by 2030.
However, Q2 2020 certification numbers were down 85 per cent compared to the same period in 2019 due to restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
‘As a country, we urgently need a concerted, ongoing workforce development strategy,’ the letter says,
‘The automotive workforce is already behind in the skills required for these emerging technologies – through no fault of its own.
‘Embattled employers need support and incentives to get more of their technicians trained, and to re-ignite recruitment and apprenticeship plans.’
The open letter was issued just a day before new and old battery electric cars in the UK can display new number plates with green flashes to identify them from other vehicles.
The plates, introduced by the government and backed by transport secretary Grant Shapps, are designed to incentivise EV ownership.
Drivers could soon benefit from cheaper parking, unrestricted access to low emission zones and use of bus lanes in some towns and cities, ministers have suggested.
From tomorrow (Tuesday 8 December), new and old battery electric cars will be allowed to display special number plates with a green flash as part of a government incentive to drive sales of zero-emissions vehicles
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